Denim pants. A western wardrobe staple. With so many high fashion brands in a race to have the highest price, and specialty Japanese mills creating indigo dyed unsanforized heavy weight specialty denim, they both lose the spirit. Inexpensive, long lasting, hard wearing, utility clothing, almost a great equalizer.


The sizes are measured in inches (quintessentially American so its inches wherever you find them), waist by length. For example, my size is 29x30 where 29" is proportional to my waist circumference, and 30" is proportional to my inseam. Of course, proportional is the correct word to use as the sizing varies wildly by brand and even by style within a manufacturer, especially with vanity sizing. It’s important to try them on for fit until you decide to settle on a model.


Denim is a full cotton fabric (almost all women’s' styles and a large portion of men’s styles add 1%-5% elastane also known as spandex for stretch) woven with a twill weave (chambray is the same material but is woven with a plain weave and with finer threads). The warp thread (runs parallel to the selvedge) is dyed indigo while the weft (snakes though the warp back and forth) is left undyed. Since the fabric is woven with an asymmetric weave (weft travels over multiple warp threads in each pass) one side is lighter than the other. Natural fabrics are wonderful as they breathe well, absorb moisture, can be dyed properly, and require less processing for manufacture. The weight of the fabric (imperial again) is measured in oz, and since every type of fabric has its own methodology, in denim it is weight per square yard in ounces (oz/y^2). The heavier you can find, the longer lasting but less flexible and the inverse with lighter fabrics.


Buy clean denim and any distressing that happens will add character. Wear around where you keep your wallet or phone, where you always scrape the wall when leaving your building, the calves and knees worn and oil stains from sitting on the driveway for hours replacing an alternator. Over the years they can be demoted down to yardwork pants from office and going out pants, and a new pair replaces the lost.

Button or Zipper

A zipper fly is most common on Jeans, but the classic button fly is more hard wearing, less complex mechanically meaning it will last longer, and most importantly it lies flatter against the body, and is more comfortable. There is a learning curve involved in using it, but it’s worth getting if you have choice.


Preferred washes (colors) are "Clean Rigid" (Levi's) as a dark indigo which is the classic color, and black. For fabrics that are indigo dyed, checking the obverse side to see the lighter color is an indicator of the correct weave used in the fabric.

Levi's 501


Levis Outlet Store | $40 USD | 2019

This is the classic style, made from 10.5oz denim, pre-washed and softened, and a four-button fly. With a medium rise, sitting above the hips, and straight leg they have a classic fit. They will loosen by about 2% from new though wearing and can be temporarily shrunk up to 2% by washing and drying at high temperatures.


Levis 501 Shrink to Fit


Levi's Outlet Store | $40 USD | 2017

The classic style, unwashed. Made from heavier 12.5oz denim, and a button fly with five buttons, one more than that standard 501, the shrink to fit lies a bit more true to the heritage of the brand.

If you are willing to put in the effort, there are few more authentic choices you can make, and it’s a worthwhile investment. They come for the same price, but it is a lot more work though, firstly the size must be selected with shrinkage in mind, and then optimally should be soaked while wearing and then air dried while wearing they will leech indigo dye into the bathtub and your skin. Over time and multiple washings and continued wearing they will conform to your body fading and feathering exactly to you, and the way you move.

There is much further research if you go down this route. If I write a guide it will be [linked].

When Cone Mills White Oak Denim with selvedge was available and a tremendous bargain, still I expect my pairs to age gracefully over the next decade.


Levis 512


Levi's Outlet Store | $40 USD | 2019

Zipper fly, super skinny cut. With 1% elastane and a cut that sits low at the hips, and tapers with the legs down to the ankles. A more modern fit.